Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Analyzing Insurgencies Throughout American History

Analyzing Insurgencies Throughout American History

C3 Framework for Social Studies
o D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
o D2.His.2.9-12. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.
o D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

o Students will be able to compare various insurgencies encountered throughout United States history.
o Students will be able to hypothesize why insurgencies have proved to be such a difficult enemy to combat for a global power.

o Day One
1. Give students a few minutes to work together completing the “Introductory Activity” slide of the PowerPoint. Following this, allow students to write what their groups wrote down on the board. This should serve as a useful gauge as to their prior knowledge on the topic.
2. Have students write down the Mirriam-Webster definitions for the key terms. Depending on the students’ reading and writing levels, further clarification may be necessary on a few definitions.
3. Return to the results of the student brainstorm and give students another chance to add to it, as the definitions may have helped to activate prior knowledge that they have from other classes or other units within the class.
4. Have students take a few minutes and complete their T-charts categorizing conventional wars and insurgent campaigns. When they are finished, hold a brief discussion to see what they put where, and why, on the T-chart.
5. Hand out the “Insurgencies Grid” sheet and go through the various factors that an insurgency needs to fuel itself. Then, divide the class into five groups, randomly or differentiated ability level, etc. Give each group one of the columns regarding an insurgency. Let them know that tomorrow they will need to bring this sheet and be ready to research.
6. Closing Question/ Exit Slip: Based on what was put in each column on the T-chart, has the United States had more success in winning conventional wars or insurgent campaigns? Why do you believe this?

o Day Two
1. Students will be working in groups today completing their assigned column on the “Insurgencies Grid.” They will need access to technology, be it a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
2. While students work, one will want to circulate and answer questions, as there will probably be some questions of vocabulary terms or historical context.
3. As class wraps up, let students know that they will be jigsawing their work the next day, so they need to make sure that their column is filled out well and completely.

o Day Three
1. Assign members from each research group from the prior day into new groups that will allow them to jigsaw the information that they learned in filling out their column. While they do this, circulate and address any issues of concern (groups off task, clearly incorrect information, etc.).
2. When groups have had enough time (roughly 20-25 minutes) have the class come back together and address any general points of confusion.
3. Have students complete the “Insurgencies Throughout American History Graphic Organizer” Reflection Questions.
4. When students are done, a group discussion over question five could be a good closing activity.

Differentiation amongst groups is the best way to modify this lesson. Based on the ability level of various students in class, it may be beneficial to place students with stronger inferential skills in groups with students with less developed skills, as when they are researching their specific column of the chart, the answers may not be immediately apparent, depending on the specific source they choose to use to accomplish their assigned task.

For classes that trend toward a lower ability level, it is also possible to reduce the amount of factors that they must identify for their specific conflict while still accomplishing the objectives of the lesson.

To shorten the lesson, day two could easily be assigned for homework the night of day one.

Finally, it is advised to check the Mirriam Webster Dictionary definitions prior to beginning the lesson, as well as making sure that you have a basic understanding of the conflicts students will be researching, as, depending on the student, you may have to field questions about how to find reputable sources written at their reading level.

The information that students compile for their column on the grid can easily be assigned to be put into a short presentation that they give to the entire class, using knowledge that they have learned in prior units (this is especially applicable in an United States History course). These presentations can serve into a nice launching point into the class discussion over the reflection questions, or for a Socratic Seminar styled discussion over similar topics.

For high performing students, given the large amount of primary source documents available from the insurgent perspective in all of the conflicts discussed during the lesson plan, they could be required to back up some or all of their research with a primary source arguing as much. If doing this, one could give students examples of who the relevant primary sources would come from. For example, for the group studying the Philippine-American War, Emilio Aguinaldo’s writings are a good source to explain the factors fueling the insurgency in that conflict.

o Erin Simpson’s “Counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan” lecture, available at multimedia/2018/03/ counterinsurgency-in-iraq-and- afghanistan/
o Mirriam Webster Dictionary (available online)

  • Aaron Henricks
  • Oswego High School (Oswego, IL)
Grade Level
  • High School: 11, 12
Time Frame
  • Three 50 minute periods

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at [email protected]